The Tipton County Chamber of Commerce is using a federal grant to launch a program aimed at helping small businesses and entrepreneurs. The Accelerate (765) Program will provide low-interest loans and training assistance, as well as business counseling and education services, to eligible businesses in a growing entrepreneurial community.
“Almost 90% of the businesses here in Tipton County employ nine employees or fewer, so we’re incredibly entrepreneurial,” Chamber Executive Director Kegan Schmicker said. “It’s this idea that we need to further support and encourage these entrepreneurs to either start businesses or expand their businesses because that’s where most of the job growth and tax growth is coming from.”
In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Schmicker said the demand for more business resources has grown over the last few years.
“We’ve really seen an uptick since the pandemic of both new entrepreneurs, who are getting into the world of business, who’ve maybe had the idea for a long time and for whatever reason, the pandemic was really that spur to start planning for that new venture, and then from the existing businesses in Tipton County,” he said. “We’re seeing growth as demand has increased in the various industries and sectors.”
In addition to the low-interest loans, Accelerate (765) will offer a five-session business planning and management course twice annually. The chamber is also partnering with the Hoosier Heartland Small Business Development Center to bring free business counseling to owners.
The chamber said businesses eligible for the program include startups that have met application requirements and existing businesses based in Tipton County with less than $1 million in gross annual sales and fewer than 50 employees.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture awarded the chamber a $99,000 Rural Business Development Grant to support the program.
Accelerate (765) will be managed by Amy Beechy, the owner of Project Matters LLC, a consulting firm in Kokomo. Schmicker said Beechy assisted the chamber with the USDA grant application.
“This award from the USDA is the first step for Tipton County to build a strong support network for supporting small businesses,” Beechy said in written remarks. “The model we’re operating under is a proven one, one that will grow businesses and create jobs.”
Schmicker said the chamber has a year to distribute the grant funding, which he expects to be done. Looking forward, he’s hopeful for additional funding to keep the program going.
“Through [the USDA], we can reapply for those funds,” he said. “The other piece is locally, this idea that we as local residents in Tipton County can contribute to this fund that is helping to spur economic growth in the community. So there’s two pieces of this as I see it moving forward…and I think both will be pretty successful in the years to come.”